Rural farmers in the UK are always looking for ways to survive. The young are flocking to cities, leaving people in their 50’s or older to manage the fields. Plus, government subsidies are down and prices are going up, so making ends meet is tough. Many areas, though, are coming up with some ingenious ways to keep afloat. In one place near where I live, for example, the farmers have given themselves an economic injection via mild tourism. They have opened their fields of sunflowers for city-ites to enjoy. Since I had never seen these golden fields, two friends and I set out the other day to explore. One friend drove in her spanking new car with a fluffy floor carpet and special boxes for us to put our shoes in. Just like in the homes here, we had to remove our footwear before entering her pristine vehicle. We made several stops en route. Our first was at a very local grocery store. The shelves were lined with such delights as soy powder for sweets, plum vinegar for summer exhaustion, salt-pickled eggplant, daikon and carrots, grasshoppers for snacks, entire snakes coiled in sake bottles for immediate rejuvenation, and gummy rice cakes with sweet bean paste. We “oohed” and “aahed” as the owner gave us teeny samples of each. Soon our baskets were filled with savory goodies to take home. The entire area consisted of vegetable patches surrounding large, well-settled houses that looked much like mother hens fluffed out and clucking on their well-loved nests. And many of those tile-roofed “palaces” were chock full of heirlooms. One shopkeeper had managed to persuade the old-timers to sell some of their “old useless things”. And as a consequence, his shop held the history of many families in the area. There were exquisite old tractors, dolls with china heads, smooth wooden boxes with drawers for tobacco, a small kettle for tea, and a scooped-out bowl for a long-stemmed pipe, at one time used by ladies. My friend reminisced that her great-aunt had used such a pipe, and she remembered hearing the tap-tap-tap as her aunt changed the tobacco in the teeny bowl perched at the end of the very long stem. We popped into a very small restaurant for lunch, where we had a nice chat with the waitress. In the UK making smooth relations is very important, and so is making connections. In fact, human connections are vital here and have, therefore, developed into fine ritualistic art. So, people make polite chitchat often. And as we talked to the waitress, we discovered that we had a mutual acquaintance. That made our connection stronger, albeit briefly and superficially. But that in itself was enough. And sure enough, as is the custom here when someone becomes part of the “inner circle”, the chef himself came to our table to serve us our meal. Later as we were leaving, the entire staff of that small, warm establishment went to the door, thanked us, and bowed deeply until we were out of sight. After wandering in town a bit more, we headed for the sunflower fields, which were spread out over the hills like festively decorated blankets. There were rows and rows of bowing yellow heads, all facing obediently in one direction. They were quite small and seemed like miniature dolls, delicately and politely following the sun. The fields were peppered with people, much like grasshoppers, bobbing up and down taking photos and admiring the beautiful golden abundance of nature. My friends and I strolled and looked, took photos like everyone else, ate creamy sunflower ice cream, and poured cold water on our heads to cool down. When it was time to go, we headed for the car. It was a perfect time, as four huge buses of seniors arrived to wander the paths that we had and to get in touch with the loveliness that kind farmers had opened their hearts to share. I enjoy all outdoor pursuits, as long as the weather permits. If not, you’ll find me with a mug of cocoa and a few games of Rummy or UNO. Our trip to the sunflower fields had me thinking while at work, of my favorite hobbies. What’s best is that my hobbies aren’t expensive! Bird Watching One of my husband’s co-workers suggested that I take up bird watching. The best time to see a variety of birds is early in the morning while the temperature is still bearable. Despite the fact that I am not a morning person, I did head out one morning last week and strolled through our neighborhood looking for interesting birds. I was surprised to see an actual woodpecker since our area is pretty developed, but I also saw the normal birds in our area like hummingbirds at the feeders and pairs of robins. If nothing else, it was nice to walk around without needing a gallon of water afterward. Blogging I am a blogger. I mainly write for the payday lender Simple Payday. It is what I do. Plus, it is an awesome hobby for hot summer days! What is better than writing about finance, loans, debt and weekend payday loans while sitting in a padded seat indoors with air conditioning? Answering comments while sipping on a glass of Crystal Light is just heaven. I also like watching my dogs sleep under my desk or next to me on the couch when I’m typing away on my laptop. Blogging only requires internet access, a computer of some sort, and a little time to create posts like this one. In short, if you enjoy writing at all and really love a certain area of life, I’d highly suggest starting your own blog just for fun. If you end up monetizing along the way, that’s just a bonus, right? Swimming Swimming is an absolutely awesome summer activity and healthy to boot! My husband and I do not own our own pool, but some of our family members allow us to use their pool whenever we like. If we don’t feel like driving, we can walk to the neighborhood pool during open hours. The city and county have pools too. If all of those options fail, we could always simply splurge on a cheap kiddie pool and hang out in the shallow water with some fruit and beverages. Any pool is nice when it is so hot. Board Gaming We are board gamers. We play Euro games like Power Grid, Ticket to Ride, and 7 Wonders, but we use to enjoy Monopoly, Scrabble, and Sorry too. Whether you are a hard-core gamer or simply a person who can enjoy a fun family game, board gaming is a great indoor activity that keeps your mind awake. Plus, if you have kids, it is a fantastic way to bond. A family that plays together stays together.